The start of a New Year always stimulates a lot of a conversation centered around goals. Take the time to set goals; Set goals that are measurable and achievable; Put your goals in writing.
These universal bits of advice are tried and true. But, developing excellent goals for the year does not start with looking ahead. It starts with looking behind to the past year.
Most people don’t give much thought to the past year once the Times Square Ball drops—It’s over, it’s done, and it can’t be changed.
While it is never easy to look back, an honest assessment of achievements and failures is pivotal. Only by reflecting on the past year can we best identify what we want and need to accomplish in the year ahead.
I have found that by honestly answering four questions, the goal-setting process is much more effective. I suggest asking yourself these questions as well, before setting any new goals.
1. What was the biggest thing I screwed up last year? Maybe it was a blown project, a damaged relationship, or an unkept commitment. Regardless, when asked about last year’s screw-ups, most of us recall one action or activity that stands out. Identifying this moment, although painful, shines a light on the area we fell short. Realize the circumstances that led to that failure.
2. What is one thing I would do differently this year? Examine an important lesson learned in the past year. We often want to change the manner in which we approached a situation. Perhaps we wish we would have focused more on a cause or project important to us. Evaluate previous actions and consider how alternate responses would produce a different outcome.
3. Where did I miss an opportunity? Was it a shunned business deal that led to exponential growth for a competitor? Was it a potential hire that slipped away? Did hesitation on a decision result have a costly impact at a later date? Now is not the time to beat ourselves up over missed opportunities. Instead, let us take the time to explore the reasoning and fallacies behind our decisions. Focus on the steps necessary for seizing previously missed opportunities.
4. What did I not do that I should have? Over the course of time, many people experience a loss of interest in achieving their goals. We allow ourselves to become preoccupied with other activities. What was the importance of that original goal? Determine whether the goal is still relevant for the New Year. Give thought to the barriers that prevented accomplishment last year.
With the New Year comes a renewed sense of optimism and the promise of great achievement.
Reflect on the occurrences of the past year, asking yourself the four questions before setting any new goals. By evaluating the year behind us, we’ll find ourselves on the path to accomplishing more purposeful goals in the year ahead.